From about lunchtime on Wednesday 13 to about the same time the following Tuesday, I’m going to be at Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, which is taking place at the ExCeL exhibition centre in London Docklands. It’s looking like it might end up as the largest ever such occasion, and certainly the largest outside the USA: at the time of writing, there are 9904 registered members from all around the world (including one from the Holy See), of whom just over seven thousand are listed as attending.
The programme comprises nearly 1200 items (talks, panel discussions, interviews, presentations, concerts, plays, award ceremonies, book signings, etc) of which 121 are about something scientific. The exhibits hall is packed full of a wide range of displays, as well as the art show, the dealers’ tables, and a number of special displays relating to the guests of honour (including a wasp factory and a bone chair in honour of the late Iain (M) Banks).
I’m helping organise an academic poster session showcasing current research in fields ranging from astrophysics to palaeogenetics. Dr Moira Harrison has kindly donated money for a prize for the best poster, in memory of her father, the renowned science fiction author Harry Harrison.
Some people from Wikimedia UK will be running an editathon on Thursday in the Library area of the Capital Hall, and I’m intending to go to as much of that as I can manage: I’ve been to a few editathons over the past few years and they’re splendid occasions.
I’m on three programme items:
- Friday 15 August, 4:30pm (Capital Suite 7+12): Interview with Ian Stewart: I’ll be interviewing Prof Ian Stewart about his career in mathematics and science communication.
- Friday 15 August, 6:00pm (Capital Suite 15): What’s New in Maths: At the same time as Loncon 3, the 2014 International Congress of Mathematicians will be taking place in Seoul. On Wednesday, up to four new Fields Medals will be awarded, to recognise stellar achievement by mathematicians aged 40 or under. I’ll be moderating and participating in a panel discussion with Ian Stewart, Hannu Rajaniemi and Alice Hedenlund, looking at the work of the new Fields Medallists in particular, and some of the latest developments in mathematics in general.
- Monday 18 August, 10:00am (London Suite 2): Knots in Non-Euclidean Space: The space around some (actually, in some sense, almost all) knots has a well-defined hyperbolic 3-dimensional structure. I’ll try to explain what this means, and how we can use it to find out some useful geometric information about the knot itself.
The rest of the programme includes a wide range of talks and panel discussions, plays (including The Cancelling and Re-Imagining of Captain Tartan by David Wake, a sequel to a play he wrote and directed for Reconvene in 1999, the first convention I attended; and a dramatisation of Tim Powers’ novel The Anubis Gates) the 2014 Hugo and 1939 Retro-Hugo Award Ceremonies, an orchestral concert by the Worldcon Philharmonic Orchestra, and talks by a large number of interesting people, including the cosmonaut Anatolii Artsebarski and the Astronomer Royal, Lord Rees.